Monday, 5 March 2012

Brazilian-inspired pineapple & passionfruit cake with fluffy coconut meringue

So its probably about time I actually wrote down some more recipes! I'm starting off with this tropical pick-me-up, my current favourite cake to make and eat, perfect for dreary march mornings.

I was first asked to make this cake for a Brazilian friend, who asked me if I knew about Brazilian pineapple cakes, which I didn't, so what better place to start?
I spent some time on Google researching, and it seemed that what she was looking for was a vanilla sponge, with a creamy coconut custard filling and fresh pineapple then piled with whipped cream. A good start, but me being me, I had to meddle.

The first time I made this cake, I followed the recipe I found online: the filling was made with condensed milk added to normal cow's milk or coconut milk, which was then cooked out with extra cornflour and egg yolks to make a nice thick filling. This was then sandwiched between a light vanilla sponge with fresh pineapple to make almost a dessert-style layer cake.

The result was nice, but I'm not a fan of the flavour of condensed milk, so this was the first thing I wanted to change. Secondly, the whipped cream topping was a non-starter. The cream that you buy in the states whips up to a much lighter and fluffier consistency, and isn't too heavy when piled on top of pies and cakes, but its not the same with our heavy (yet delicious) British cream.

After a few experiments, I changed the filling to a traditional thick english custard made with coconut cream, and instead of the whipped cream topping I made a coconut-flecked soft meringue topping, which turned out to be the best bit!

So here goes:

Brazilian Pineapple and Coconut Cake

Sponge - this is a very light sponge recipe, as it only uses egg whites.
The original recipe, made with condensed milk,
gave a slightly sloppy filling consistency!

400g plain flour
400g golden caster sugar
227g softened butter
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

180g egg whites
327g coconut milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 tsp coconut extract or Malibu!

Prepare 2 x 9" sandwich tins with butter and greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.

Whisk the egg whites, 200ml coconut milk with the vanilla and coconut extract.
In a stand mixer, mix the dry ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds. This minimises the need to sift the dry ingredients and ensures the are well combined.

Add the softened butter and the remaining coconut milk and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Remember to scrape the sides of the bowl down, then beat on high for 45 seconds.

Slowly add the remaining wet ingredients and beat well. until smooth. Divide the batter between the two sandwich tins and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool slightly (they will shrink away from the sides of the tins) then cool completely on wire racks.


200ml coconut milk
90ml whole milk
2 egg yolks
55g golden caster sugar
15g plain flour
15g cornflour
1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
1 tsp coconut extract or malibu
1 fresh pineapple, chopped into slices

Infuse the milks with the vanilla pod in a saucepan by bringing them to a simmer then remove from the heat. Mix the yolks with the sugar and flours and a few tablespoons of milk. Pour the hot milk over the yolk mix and combine well.
Pour the mixture into a clean saucepan and cook over a medium heat until very thick and boiling gently (stir all the time). Remove from the heat and add the coconut extract or malibu.
Allow to cool slightly before sandwiching the sponges together with the fresh pineapple.
Variation: the second time I made this I replaced the milk with fresh passionfruit juice and included some fresh rambutans along with the pineapple, total winner!

Topping - make this just before you use it:

200g egg whites (from 6-7 eggs)
320g white caster sugar
75ml water

Combine all ingredients in a metal bowl and whisk for 5-7 minutes over a pan of boiling water until stiff peaks form. Whisk off the heat for a few minutes until the mixture is cool, then quickly which in 1 tsp vanilla extract.
Spoon on top of the assembled cake and decorate as you please! Finish with some fresh grated coconut.

WARNING - please do not under any creative circumstances be tempted to add any coconut, fresh or otherwise, before the meringue is completely stiff. The fats in the coconut will deflate your meringue and you will be left with a beautifully delicately flavoured coconut dribble.

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